Wednesday, September 14, 2011
COHOS TRAIL & VICTOR HEAD: 9/9/11
Back up to the Nash Stream Forest in northern New Hampshire for some rambling on another section of the Cohos Trail, the 160-mi. route that runs the length of Coos County. Today's route was a long loop around Bald Mountain, with a side trip up to the clifftop ledges on the little nubble named Victor Head. Four miles of this trek - the Cohos segments called Bald Mountain Trail (or Bald Mountain Notch Trail) and Rowell Link - would be new trail territory for me. My friend John Compton (aka 1HappyHiker), who has a great hiking blog, the Bald Mountain Trail this spring and gave it a good recommendation.
The trail's start off Percy Road in Stark looked inauspicious. The lower mile or so is a snowmobile trail, and I feared much of it would be weedy and wet as it looks here. But most of it turned out to be pleasant grassy walking.
The sign reads Bald Mt. Notch Trail, which is more accurate than Bald Mountain Trail, since the trail does not go to the summit of Bald, but passes through a neat little notch behind it.
A typical section on the snowmobile trail.
I inspected this sagging bridge from the side before tiptoeing across it.
At 1.4 mi. the trail turned right onto a footpath and climbed through pleasant woods.
Approaching the notch behind Bald Mountain, the trail slipped into a dark conifer forest, with a peek out at The Horn and Mt. Cabot.
On the other side of the notch the trail wound through beautiful birch glades.
An old logging camp clearing beside the trail.
Where a moose bedded down in the meadow.
The next mile or so was on the Rowell Link, which crosses Rowell Brook on this nifty bridge.
Looking upstream from the bridge.
In typical Cohos Trail fashion, after meandering through some wild conifer forest on a rough, narrow footway, the trail changes character as it breaks out onto a major old logging road, the Jimmy Cole Brook Road, with a glimpse of the Pilot Range.
Smooth walkin' on this grassy road, reminiscent of the carriage roads at Castle in the Clouds Conservation Area in the Ossipee Mountains.
Rocks come in handy when there are no handy trees for blazing at a trail junction.
This part of the Cohos Trail is called the Old Summer Club Trail, because parts of it were restored from an old trail that led from the Percy Summer Club on Christine Lake to the Percy Peaks. Near the start, it passes a boulder with character.
Beautiful forest strolling, with good footing.
The side trail to Victor Head climbs 500 ft. in 0.4 mi.
The last pitch edges along mossy ledges.
On the west side of the summit there's a great stand-up view of the Percy Peaks.
The best spot to hang out is a ledge on the south side, reached by a spur path.
The views aren't panoramic, but they are nice, particularly looking over Christine Lake to the Pilot Range.
View east to the Mahoosucs. The September sun was pouring down on the ledge, and a nap was in order.
After a snooze, I made my way out to another, more open ledge just to the east, proceeding carefully to protect both me and the fragile lichens.
This was a fantastic spot, with perhaps the best of all northern views of the Pilot Range.
A zoom on (L to R) Unknown Pond Ridge, The Horn, The Bulge, and Mt. Cabot.
Looking SE to Mill Mountain, the northeastern outliers of the Pilots, and the lower Mahoosucs in the distance.
After a long stay atop Victor Head, I descended back to the Old Summer Club Trail, and then followed unmarked old woods roads down to Christine Lake.
Although the North Country got off pretty lightly from Tropical Storm Irene, this snowmobile bridge over Rowell Brook bit the dust.
Another historic relic in the forest.
A key woods road junction on this route. If ascending from Christine Lake, you turn left onto this road a half-mile from the start.
You briefly walk on the road that leads to the Percy Summer Club, which graciously allows hikers access across their land.
South Percy (L) and Victor Head (R) from the beach at the east end of Christine Lake, where there is public parking.
After a 1.7 mi. road walk back to my car, I drove over to Northside Road a mile outside of Stark village for an evening climb up a recently blazed, rough trail to the top of Devil's Slide, the dark cliff that looms over that picturesque town. The lower slopes of Devil's Slide are in Devil's Slide State Forest, while the ipper slopes are part of the Forest Society's Kauffmann Forest. In its middle section, the yellow-blazed path passes through some nice hardwood forest.
Evening sun in the woods, approaching the clifftop.
A crag a little ways down the edge from trail's end overlooks the town of Stark, whose covered bridge and classic white church are featured in countless photos. Stark is also well-known for its World War II German POW camp, the story of which is masterfully chronicled in Allen V. Koop's book, Stark Decency.
Looking east past a lower cliff and out over the Upper Ammonoosuc River valley.
Last light on the Pilot Range, time to head for home.